Melissa Barrett, business advisory services manager, Jamaica Business Development Corporation.
THE JAMAICA Business Development Corporation (JBDC) is targeting 60 local entrepreneurs within the micro, small, and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector for Cohort 4 of its Accelerator Programme, which is set to get under way in early 2022.
The six-month intensive development programme is being jointly funded by the JBDC and the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ).
Melissa Barrett, business advisory services manager at the JBDC, says the upcoming cohort is set to be the agency’s biggest since the programme was first launched in 2017.
“Previously, we engaged a maximum of 20 participants per cohort. We have since increased our capacity to deliver through additional staffing, consultants, and financing. We are elated that the DBJ has agreed to finance J$30 million of the total so we can reach more persons. The total investment is significant in that we are essentially investing J$1 million in each participant,” Barrett said.
The programme includes six modules: strategy development, financial management, marketing and sales, operational improvement, digital transformation, and business valuation. Participants will benefit from training, mentorship, networking, increased sales, business growth, and financing opportunities.
“One of the high points of the programme is the one-week boot camp to be facilitated by the JBDC team of business-development experts as well as external consultants who are experts in their respective fields. We know that financing is critical for entrepreneurs, so they will be trained in pitch preparation in order to face potential investors in pitch sessions at the end of the programme,” Barrett added.
According to Barrett, the JBDC Accelerator Programme has seen several successful participants. Most recently, the JBDC B.O.S.S. MAN and B.O.S.S. LADY OF THE YEAR awards were bestowed on graduates of the programme, Carl Sharpe and Donna-Kaye Sharpe, partners in Chocollor Chocolate.
According to Mr Sharpe: “Given the fact that I was otherwise gainfully employed, the approach to establishing Chocollor Chocolate was a kind of laissez-faire [approach]. The Accelerator Programme, however, challenged us to not only give Chocollor Chocolate the attention it deserved, but to also open our eyes to the endless possibilities surrounding this venture and to do this in a structured manner, with the chances of success being greatly enhanced.”
Barrett says that the JBDC is especially proud of Chocollor Chocolate’s performance since the pandemic as prior to COVID-19, Chocollor Chocolate had two direct outlets: the Things Jamaican™ stores and General Food Supermarket.
“When the airport was closed March to May 2020, they realigned their strategy. This allowed them to search for more direct customer sales, resulting in their customer base growing to just over 30 customers, which includes an arrangement with the renowned Starbucks, which currently has Chocollor Chocolate listed in their eight local stores. The Sharpes have retrofitted an area in their home and relocated some equipment in the enclosed balcony. During curfew, lockdown, and no movement days, they were able to continue with production to meet an increasing demand. Home Sweet Home!,” Mrs. Barrett shared.
The JBDC is aiming to have an impact on the Accelerator Programme Cohort 4 participants with results such as average annual sales growth rate of 10 per cent of more, jobs created by early stage entrepreneurs, firms receiving early stage financing, as well as firms having links to strategic business partners (angel investors, institutional investors, and fund managers).
Applications are now open for the programme and will close on January 7, 2022. Applicants must meet the following criteria:
. In business for at least one year;
. Earn a minimum revenue of $5 million;
. Must have two managers or decision makers;
. Must have a scalable business model;
. Must be willing to commit to a six-month intensive programme.
Interested persons may access the application form on the JBDC’s website at www.jbdc.net.
Source: The Gleaner
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